Making good on his promise to bring home his first American win, top sprinter Mark Cavendish (of Team Columbia surged pass the charging peloton in the final 200 meters to win stage one of the 2008 Tour of Missouri. Cavendish, an emerging international star with four stage wins at the 2008 Tour de France to his credit, finished ahead of Team Garmin-Chipotle H3O's Tyler Farrar. Francesco Chicchi of Liquigas rounded out the podium in third.

"I was just there. I was on George's (Hincapie) wheel and Toyota (United) got the jump in the last kilometer," said Cavendish. "Tyler (Farrar) jumped at 200 meters and I just slotted on his wheel and that gave me an extra two seconds rest. It was just a case of kicking past him and crossing the line."

Rolling out under grey, cold skies, the 2008 Tour of Missouri began in St. Joseph, Mo., the birthplace of the Pony Express and home of the Jesse James Museum. The star-studded international peloton dazzled the eager crowds lining St. Joseph's downtown area as the cyclists headed south to Kansas City. Just 16 miles into today's 90-mile stage, Martin Kohler of the BMC Racing Team and Tom Zirbel of Bissell Pro Cycling broke off from the field. Jonathan Sundt of Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast joined the two and the trio built a nearly five-minute gap before being drawn back to an emerging peloton led by Team Columbia, Liquigas and Team Garmin-Chipotle H3O. From there, the field jostled for position in the final circuits with Cavendish emerging victorious.

While Cavendish is also the Edward Jones Sprint Leader, the sprint jersey will be worn by Farrar, currently second in sprint points. Cavendish also leads the THF Realty Young Rider competition; however the jersey will be worn by Micheal Van Stayen of Rabobank. Dominique Rollin of Toyota United Pro Cycling will wear the Michelob Ultra KOM jersey. Kohler (BMC) was awarded the Drury Hotels Aggressive Rider Jersey.

"It's a great race," said Farrar. ""It's really cool to see cities getting behind it so quickly. Every time we went through a town, we saw people out on the roads cheering. It looks like the event has a bright future."

Stage 1 podium (l-r) Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Chipotle), Mark Cavendish (Columbia), Roberto Chicchi (Liquigas)

Stage Two, the Tour's longest (126.3 mi./203.3 km), will begin in historic Clinton, Mo. at 11:00 a.m. Clinton is the terminus of the Katy Trail, a 225 mile (365 km) bike path stretching across Missouri. Over half of the trail follows Lewis and Clark's path up the Missouri River. From there, cyclists will battle on the flat pastoral lands of western Missouri and earn Edward Jones Sprint Line points in the towns Stockton and Willard before finishing in Springfield. The race is expected to finish between 3:35-4:50 p.m.

All photos copyright Lyne Lamoureux